Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir’s concert in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday 3rd November was occasionally ‘harmonised’ with the whooshes, whizzes and bangs of Bonfire Night celebrations as they took place in the far distance. But these pyrotechnics were nothing in comparison with the colours, the glorious vocal display and orchestral fireworks taking place inside the Cathedral.
The Amici Ensemble, assembled as a full orchestra for this concert, set the tone for the evening with a wonderfully buoyant and rousing rendition of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 4. A piece full of tunes and rhythms, the Amici showed us the subtle nuances of this work as well as celebrating the big, bouncy themes which we all know so well.
In the season of Remembrance, it was appropriate to include ‘The Spirit of England’, Elgar’s setting of Laurence Binyon’s poems ‘The Fourth of August’, ‘To Women’ and ‘For the Fallen’. This work reflects Elgar’s turbulent feelings about World War One and its glories and its horrors and losses. The wonderful blend of the Choir’s confident command of this work along with Ben Thapa’s gorgeous tenor voice, his strong presence and superb ability to communicate, gave the audience a wonderful insight into this work in all its many moods and emotions. As the final notes of ‘For the Fallen’ slowly evaporated into the air, no one was left unmoved. It is a powerful piece, and was executed with skill, subtlety and sensitivity. A fitting performance for this time of Remembrance, in this centenary commemoration of the Armistice.
There was a dramatic change of tone in the second half of the concert which featured Elgar’s ‘The Music Makers’, the wonderfully explorative musical setting for Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s poem ‘Ode’. The poem, brought to vibrant life by Elgar’s enormously creative skill and musicianship, celebrates the power of music, its power to make people achieve their dreams and ambitions (and to destroy them as well) even beyond the life of the music maker.
The Choir sang with great skill, power and subtlety, displaying careful attention to the dynamics of the piece, so important in creating the mood, and in conveying the meaning and sheer magnificence of the work.
And, Gaynor Keeble, in both the parts where her voice so beautifully blended with the Choir, and in the solos, was a sensation. Her voice is beautiful, rich, resonant and clear. She has the vocal power to fill the space with her superb voice, and at the same time, exquisite control, sufficient to convey the subtleties and emotions of the piece.
Gaynor’s obvious love of singing, and of this work, which she communicated to the audience in generous abundance, along with the lovely voices of the Choir, and the vibrant colours of Elgar’s orchestration conveyed by the Amici Ensemble, presented to the audience a magnificent rendition of Elgar’s The Music Makers.
None of the night’s success would have been possible without the leadership of Andrew Padmore, Conductor, who directed, shaped, inspired and blended the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir, the Amici Ensemble and Ben Thapa and Gaynor Keeble’s voices into an insightful and coherent interpretation of Elgar’s works.
Music Making at its very best. Truly a night to remember.